मुद्राis mudrā, literally means a “seal” in Sanskrit.

A mudrā is a symbolic gesture in Hinduism, Taoism and Buddhism, and a spiritual and energetic seal in the spiritual practice of East Asian religions. Some mudrās involve the entire body, but most are shown with hands and fingers.

In Tibetan Tantra, the body, speech and thought of the Buddha are the Three Mysteries. The mystic power (Adhisthana) of the Buddha can be expressed through humans, with our body, speech and thought.

  • Body: Mudra
  • Speech: Mantra or Dharani
  • Thought: Yogic concentration or Dhyana

In yoga, mudras are helpful in meditation and pranayama to stimulate different parts of the body and affect the flow of prana in the body. Mudras are also used in classical Indian dance and martial arts. Mudras are believed to affect the energy in our body, to connect mind, body and spirit.

Mudra History

The earliest mudras are found in Mantra Shastra (book of incantations), Upasana Shastra (book of worship and prayers) and the Nritya Shastra (book of classical dances). The mid-7th Century C.E. Mahavairocana-sutra notes over 130 mudras: 31 for Great Buddhas, 57 for great deities, and 45 others.

The Babylonian sun God Damuzi held a gesture as he descended into the underworld, and the mystical whirling dervishes of Islam use hand signs for various rites and rituals. In the West, cheironomy is the science of hand gestures (mudras), and in Christian art Jesus, John the Baptist and Virgin Mary use gestures. Roman art and Egyptian hieroglyphics also show many mudras, including kings and queens as mummies holding mudras into the afterlife.

Five Elements of the Hand

The fingers also correspond to the Five Elements, as well as emotions and the major organs.

  • Thumb represents Earth, the stomach and the emotions of Worry and Meditation.
  • Index finger represents Metal, the lungs, large intestine and the emotions of Grief and Courage
  • The middle finger is Fire, the heart, small intestine, circulatory and respiratory systems, and the emotions of Joy and Depression.
  • The ring finger is Wood, the liver, gall bladder, nervous system and the emotion of Anger and Love.
  • The little finger is Water, the kidneys and the emotion of Fear and Compassion.

Mudras can be practiced seated, standing, lying down or walking. The body needs to be loose, relaxed and cantered to connect with the flow of energy. When fingers touch, use a light pressure with hands relaxed. Just exert a bit of pressure to feel the energy of your hands.

Some Important Mudras

My next post includes more information on individual Mudras, and a review of some common Buddhist and Hindu ones. You might find the information helpful in your yoga and meditation practice.

  • Dhyani – Gesture of Meditation
  • Vitarka – Gesture of Teaching
  • Dharmachakra – Turning the Wheel of Dhamma
  • Bhumisparsha – Gesture of Touching Earth – Enlightenment
  • Abhaya – Gesture of Fearlessness/Protection
  • Varada – Gesture of Granting Wishes
  • Uttarabodhi – Gesture of Supreme Enlightenment
  • Anjali – Gesture of Greeting and Veneration
  • Vajrapradama – Gesture of Unshakable Confidence
  • Maha – Gesture of Supreme Wisdom